Business & Finance

Vodafone Group, the world's top mobile-phone company, announced a $4.2 billion stock buyback and raised its interim dividend 20 percent, while posting a $7.2 billion net loss for the six-month period ending Sept. 30. Analysts praised the British-based firm for heeding investor calls to return more money to shareholders following a series of costly acquisitions, Bloomberg.com reported.

Asset-flight troubles mounted for Putnam Investments, as the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS), the nation's largest state pension fund, voted Monday to withdraw $1.2 billion from the Boston-based firm. Putnam earlier reported that investors had removed $7 billion the previous week, and $21 billion since the company became embroiled in a scandal over improper mutual-fund trades. Putnam reached a partial settlement of civil fraud charges with the Securities and Exchange Commission last week.

Toys "R" Us plans to cut 3,800 jobs and to close 182 Kids "R" Us clothing outlets and Imaginarium educational toy stores, as well as three distribution centers. The decision, announced Monday by the nation's No. 2 toy retailer, accompanied a third-quarter loss of $38 million, up from $27 million for the same period last year.

In a $2.1 billion cash deal, Prudential Financial agreed to buy Cigna Corp.'s retirement and investment services business. The purchase, announced Monday, will increase Prudential Retirement's assets to almost $120 billion, the company said from its headquarters in Newark, N.J. Cigna is based in Philadelphia.

Some 21,600 Verizon workers have accepted a buyout offer, the nation's largest local telephone company said, nearly twice the number it anticipated. As part of a cost-cutting effort, Verizon offered lump-sum severance payments and enhanced pension benefits to 152,000 union and nonunion employees. The voluntary departures take effect this week. Verizon is based in New York.

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